Germany is often thought of as a country of bureaucracy and order. While this German cliché isn’t always true, there are some specific regulations you should follow to avoid paying fines in Germany. The most common fines are often related to traffic and transport violations.
Maybe you’ve already heard some Germans talk about Punkte in Flensburg. To clear up this mystery — and save you some money while we’re at it — we’ve collected the most important information about fines in Germany.
- Fines for speeding and other traffic violations in Germany
- Parking fines in Germany
- Fines for using public transport without a ticket in Germany
- How to avoid getting fined
Fines for speeding and other traffic violations in Germany
Driving in Germany can be tough if you’re not used to it. But it’s not so bad if you take care to learn — and play by — the rules.
Always keep an eye out for changes in the speed limit. These can occur at any time, even on the German Autobahn. Yes, speed limits on the Autobahn do exist! Only some parts of this world-famous motorway are designed to test the limits of modern auto engineering.
Speeding and other traffic violations (like tailgating and crossing through a red traffic light) are heavily fined in Germany. The exact amount of a fine for speeding depends on factors such as whether you’re a repeat offender and how fast you were driving.
And if you think you can get out of a fine by leaving the country, think again. Penalty notices are regularly sent to addresses in foreign countries. Failing to respond to a notice can lead to further proceedings, especially in European Union (EU) countries.
Germany has a strict policy limiting the use of alcohol and drugs while driving.
The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.5 mg/ml for drivers who are at least 21 years old and have had their license for at least two years. For novice drivers (those who are under 21 or have had their license for less than two years), the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.0 mg/ml.
And beware: riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol is also a violation of traffic rules!
A record of traffic violations is kept at the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Office for Traffic Regulations) in Flensburg, in the form of a points system. The more points on your record, the greater the likelihood of your driving license being revoked (at least temporarily).
If an individual offense is strong enough, it can also result in a ban from driving in Germany for foreign drivers. Points records are recorded for native and foreign drivers and can be checked online.
Parking fines in Germany
Certain rules for parking in Germany differ from those in other countries. For example, a lot of foreign drivers don’t know that it’s illegal to park in front of curbed sidewalks or within five meters of a crossover. The same goes for bus stops and driveways.
The safest way to avoid a parking fine in Germany is to look for spaces that are marked with a blue “P” sign. Some of these spaces are free, though you’ll have to pay for others. The word “gebührenpflichtig” indicates a paid spot.
Ticket machines are usually close by and can be paid via cash or an online app. Failing to do so can result in a fine. Depending on where and how long you violate parking rules, fines may vary greatly — as low as €10 and as high as €100, in some cases. If the vehicle is parked in such a way that it’s a possible danger or blocking others, it can also be towed.
Fines for using public transport without a ticket in Germany
Traveling without a Fahrkarte (ticket) on German trains can get expensive. Schwarzfahrer (travelers without a ticket) are at high risk of being caught, as ticket controls happen frequently on trains operated by the German transportation company Deutsche Bahn, or DB for short. This applies to all trains, including the Intercity Express (ICE), regional trains and local trains such as the S-Bahn and U-Bahn.
And not just any Fahrkarte will save you from a fine. You may be fined if the date on your ticket does not match the date on which you’re traveling, if your ticket is no longer valid or if you purchased the incorrect type of ticket. You can even get fined for forgetting to buy an extra ticket for your dog or bicycle!
Ticket controllers in Germany are pretty strict, but they’re not without mercy. If you have a valid ticket and forgot to bring it with you, you’ll get the chance to show it at one of the service stations after you’ve been caught. In most cases, you will not have to pay if you can prove you have a valid ticket.
Public transportation fines in Germany are usually around €60, but the exact amount is subject to change. It’s best to check the Deutsche Bahn website for up-to-date information. Not paying the fine is not a great option, and doing it repeatedly could even land you in jail.
How to avoid getting fined
It might sound simple, but the easiest way to not get fined in Germany is to know the rules as permitted by the BDMV (Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr).
German traffic regulations are written down and are easy to look up online. They are generally similar to the rules in other countries, but there are a few exceptions (like parking and driving signs) that can be helpful for foreigners to know.
Come prepared and avoid fines in Germany
Have you ever heard the German saying, Vorsicht ist die Mutter der Porzellankiste (“Caution is the mother of the porcelain box”)? You might know it better by its English equivalent: “Better safe than sorry.” This creative expression shows that Germans love to come prepared when danger is ahead. After all, if you don’t, you might soon have to deal with a speeding or parking ticket!
Most fines in Germany are related to traffic violations or minor crimes like riding trains without a valid ticket. The exact amount of money you’ll be fined can vary from area to area. However, fines can almost always be looked up online. To prepare for the eventuality of having to deal with a fine over the phone, a German course can be very helpful.